The Solidarity movement brought the five out of solitary confinement

Campaign News | Wednesday, 2 April 2003

Interview with US attorney Leonard Weinglass

Interview with US attorney Leonard Weinglass - The Solidarity movement brought the five out of solitary confinement

The Cuban Five have been released from solitary confinement in the different US prisons where they are serving extremely long sentences for defending their country against terrorism. They spent almost a month in abysmal conditions deprived of family and consular visits as well as writing and reading material, and, in at least one case, his clothing.

Bernie Dwyer from Radio Havana Cubas English language service spoke to US attorney Leonard Weinglass who represents one of the Five soon after she learned of their release.

[Bernie Dwyer, Radio Havana Cuba]: Well, Leonard, congratulations, this is really great news for everybody

[Leonard Weinglass]: There are many, many people to be congratulated because it was the response of the solidarity movement that brought the Five out of solitary confinement.

[BD]: You think that it was actually public pressure that brought this about?

[LW]: Yes, that is what I meant when I referred to the response of the solidarity movement behind it. It was the overwhelming response of the public that enabled them to come out.

[BD]: How did you learn about their change of prison status?

[LW]: I received official notice last Friday that they would be out within a few days. I got that from the US Attorney in Miami and then I heard that René was the first out and then Gerardo and I know that on Monday Antonio came out. I don't know when Ramón and Fernando came out but I do know that they are out now as well.

[BD]: I understand that there are some restrictions that will remain in place. Do you know yet which ones they are?

[Leonard Weinglass]: As of now I do not know precisely what the restrictions will be. I have only received formal notification that they are going to be out of isolation and there will be some unnamed restrictions that will still be in place. As of now, I don't know which restrictions they are referring to. But I have spoken to Antonio twice, without any problem. However, Antonio did tell me that the three letters that he wrote to me while he was detained in isolation have today been returned to him. They were never delivered despite the fact that the US Attorney promised me that mail rights for legal correspondence were fully restored. They were not because he never got my letters either.

[BD]: From your telephone conversations with Antonio, could you gauge his state of mind and attitude to his release from isolation?

[LW]: Antonio is a very modest man and also very brave. He is not the kind of person who would complain. But he did tell me that he was very happy today, when I spoke to him one hour ago, that they gave him a box with two hundred letters which had been sent to him during the time he was in isolation.

[BD]: Have you spoken to any of the other attorneys about their clients, the other four men who were released from solitary confinement? Have you been able to have any further consultations about the appeal about to be lodged on April 7 at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta?

[LW]: No, I haven't had the opportunity. Phil Horowitz who represents René called me to tell me when René was out but I haven't been able to communicate with the other attorneys. As you know, everyone is in the final stages of writing the appeals briefs which are due on April 7th .I have filed for an additional thirty days and I have not heard back from the courts but I did receive a letter yesterday from Gerardo and that letter was written to me while Gerardo was in isolation. So his letters to me have been delivered and Antonio's were not. We have lost thirty days. Antonio went into the hole on March 3rd, Gerardo went in on February 28th, and we have had a lost month here. They were separated from their papers. They were not able to do anything with respect to do any work on the appeal and I went to see the two of them while they were in isolation, neither could really work on their case because they didn't have their papers and of course they were in terrible conditions under which it was impossible to do our work. So we have lost 30 days. That's why I wrote to the Eleventh Circuit asking them to give us the 30 days we have lost.

[BD]: Was any reason given as to why they were put into solitary and then released a month later? There was a suggestion that there was a national security issue but obviously that no longer applies, so it appears this whole thing has been arbitrary.

[LW]: No, nothing beyond what you have just said. They have never explained why they put the in and then never explained why they took them out. But they did tell us in writing that they would be in for a year which would be renewed year to year. So they came out within 30 days without letting us know what situation had changed that caused the Government to release them after a month.

[BD]: So, in reality they could be put back in again?

[LW]: It is very difficult to know. The Government has complete control over them subject to the reaction of the public, which in this case, I believe, has forced their release. You can't predict the next movement the Government may make. However, this may not be the end of the story. I am now examining the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the Government for the mistreatment of the Five and the lack of justification or reason for putting them under such horrendous conditions.

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